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Ferals hunt goes hi-tech

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Source: James Cook University

Lagoon damage caused by Buffalo Pigs.

Lagoon damage caused by Buffalo Pigs.

Scientists will use state-of-the-art technology to hunt feral pigs and buffalo in Australia’s remote north.

James Cook University is part of a group given $1.3 million to apply Internet of Things technology to track the animals.

JCU, CSIRO, and three North Australian Indigenous land management organisations (Aak Puul Ngangtam, Kalan Enterprises – Cape York Peninsula QLD, and Djelk Land Management – Arnhem Land NT) will use the money to develop and test new technologies to control the pests. 

With up to 23.5 million feral pigs in Australia and huge numbers of buffalo, the animals are destroying natural environments, agricultural productivity and spreading diseases.  

The animals are free to roam across vast inaccessible areas, and there has been little success in controlling them despite significant efforts.

Professor Jeremy Van Der Wal, Deputy Director of JCU’s eResearch Centre, said the group will bring the Internet of Things to Northern Australia.

"The technology is now readily available to enable real time, low cost, low power and long range communications across vast areas without using costly satellite communication,” he said.

Professor Van Der Wal said the technology, data and analysis will help scientists develop pest management programmes that will be undertaken by the project partners. 

CSIRO scientist Justin Perry said ecologists, modelers, engineers and land managers will come together to develop a real-time tracking system, so scientists understand where animals will be at different points of the year to aid in designing better control strategies.

"In northern Australia, pigs and buffalo access certain resources across the cycle of flood and drought that occurs every year.  They concentrate on key resources in the late dry season when times are toughest.  If we understand this seasonal resource better we will be in a better position to design strategic management,” he said.

Sandy Whyte, General Manager of Aak Puul Ngangtam said the project takes the work APN and CSIRO have been collaborating on to a new and higher level and lays a platform for enhanced management of the Southern Wik Homelands.

“The creation of a real-time monitoring network will allow the best allocation of resources into the future, provide further research to guide decision making and support Traditional Owners accessing and living on country,” he said.

Ricky Archer from the Djelk Rangers said the Healthy Country Plan for the area highlighted the need for Traditional owners to work with the Djelk Rangers to manage the effect buffalo and pigs were having on country.

“This project will allow Djelk to achieve these outcomes though strategic partnerships and innovative management approaches,” he said.

Phil Valencia, Senior Engineer from CSIRO’s digital and data group Data61 said the organization had extensive experience in developing low power, large scale tracking technologies for animals.

“We’re excited at the opportunity to apply next generation technologies and analysis to developing new ways of managing feral animals,” he said.

The grant was announced by the Federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce as one of 23 projects that will share $10.5 million in Federal Government funding to strengthen Australia's management of significant pest animals and weeds.

It is part of the $50 million (to 2018–19) being invested in the established pest animals and weeds efforts under the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

Contacts:
Professor Jeremy Van Der Wal
M: 0416 743 273
P: 07 4781 5570
 
Dr Justin Perry
P:  07 4753 8554
M: 0408 457 607
 
Sandy Whyte – General Manger – APN Cape York
M: 0448 570 024
 
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